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Hebrews 6:1-3

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Knowing the Voice of God: What Is a Prophet

Before you read: This article is part of a larger series that builds on itself from the foundation up, with each study building on the last. If something in this article does not make sense to you or if you believe it to be incorrect please be sure you have read over the entire course before passing your final judgment. Also be sure to visit this page’s FAQ And Objections Page

Everyone knows the word “prophet.” But, not many know what the word actually means. It isn’t always someone who tells the future, as you may think. The definition of the word “prophet” is simply someone who speaks for another.

There are 3 Hebrew words for it. The first one is Nabi. This word means, “to bubble up.” If you have done any reading of the New Testament then you have probably noticed Jesus speaking of a well of water springing up from inside of a person.

John 4:14

But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.

In an earlier unit, we spoke of what that well of living water is. It is the very Spirit of God Himself. So a prophet is someone who has the Spirit of God inside of them that is “bubbling up” to the surface to speak or act as God wants.

The Role of a Prophet

spring of water

When that well of water begins to bubble up you begin to speak the words of the Spirit. As a preacher, I have had many times when I would be preaching and would literally feel the stirring of the Spirit. Suddenly I would begin speaking words that I had not planned to speak. But, they flowed from God.

Normally when this happens it’s like I am not preaching. I am only listening to God using my mouth to speak His words. This is what a prophet does. He speaks the word of God that bubbles up in him. It doesn’t always mean he tells the future. It just means he speaks under the direction of the Spirit.

Revelation 19:10

And I fell at his feet to worship him. And he said unto me, See thou do it not: I am thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren that have the testimony of Jesus: worship God: for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.

Today, there are many who still speak the word of God from the Spirit who moves through them. Therefore, they are prophets (in the strictest sense of the word). Though, they may not be called that, since many have forgotten that a prophet is someone who speaks under the influence of God. Today we think a prophet is only someone who speaks mysteries of the future.

The next word for prophet in Hebrew is Roeh, which means “to see” and is often the word used when a prophet tells the future or speaks secrets. This is NEVER done through the power or ability of the prophet themselves! If they really are speaking for God, that is. Hozeh, is the third word and it also means “to see” but it is more about having wisdom and insight to advise than to speak of hidden things.

1 Kings 22:14

14 And Micaiah said, As the Lord liveth, what the Lord saith unto me, that will I speak.

Daniel 2:27-29

27 Daniel answered in the presence of the king, and said, The secret which the king hath demanded cannot the wise men, the astrologers, the magicians, the soothsayers, shew unto the king; 28 But there is a God in heaven that revealeth secrets, and maketh known to the king Nebuchadnezzar what shall be in the latter days. Thy dream, and the visions of thy head upon thy bed, are these; 29 As for thee, O king, thy thoughts came into thy mind upon thy bed, what should come to pass hereafter: and he that revealeth secrets maketh known to thee what shall come to pass.

The only reason a person may be able to speak as a prophet is because they are not actually the one who is giving the words. It is the Spirit of God Himself that speaks His words through men as the “well of water” bubbles up on the inside of them.

Daniel 4:18

18 This dream I king Nebuchadnezzar have seen. Now thou, O Belteshazzar, declare the interpretation thereof, forasmuch as all the wise men of my kingdom are not able to make known unto me the interpretation: but thou art able; for the spirit of the holy gods is in thee.

Daniel knew that the interpretations could not be understood, figured out, or anything else by his own power. Nebuchadnezzar knew this as well. No other wise man or “prophet” could tell the king the meaning of these things. Even Daniel could not do these things under his own ability. It was ONLY because the Spirit of God was with him.

False Prophets

God Told Me

I’ve heard a lot of people say things and claim it is God speaking through them. Yet those things rarely come to pass. There are also others who make these claims because they believe their words will come to pass, due to how likely it may be. We often call these people psychic. But, they are commonly known to speak in such general terms that any event could loosely be interpreted as a fulfillment.

There are those who also believe a person can be taught how to hear from God, and become a prophet. They claim that there used to be schools where people would learn the secrets of the prophets to know how to get God to speak through them.

They base this on the term “sons of the prophets” which is found in the Bible. But this term doesn’t tell us that there was a “prophet school.” The term “son of” and “sons of” is often used in a reference to say that someone, or a group of people, are somehow joined in purpose and thinking.

This is why we see Jesus say that some people are the sons of Satan. We also see His claim that the Pharisees were the “sons of those who killed the prophets.” This doesn’t mean these people were actually descended directly from them, or in a special club. They simply follow the same purpose and thinking.

Then there is the poor person who has been so misled that they can not tell the difference between their own passion, imagination, and emotions from the actual “bubbling up” of the Spirit. They give the same advice to others that was wrongly given to them:

“That feeling you get in the pit of your stomach, and the thoughts that come to your mind that you should do or say something, … that is the Spirit of God. You must obey it and follow the direction of it.”

That advice is wrong, and can even be deadly.

Deuteronomy 18:20

20 But the prophet, which shall presume to speak a word in my name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or that shall speak in the name of other gods, even that prophet shall die.

Jeremiah 5:31

31 The prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests bear rule by their means; and my people love to have it so: and what will ye do in the end thereof?

Jeremiah 14:14

14 Then the Lord said unto me, The prophets prophesy lies in my name: I sent them not, neither have I commanded them, neither spake unto them: they prophesy unto you a false vision and divination, and a thing of nought, and the deceit of their heart.

Jeremiah 23:16-17

16 Thus saith the Lord of hosts, Hearken not unto the words of the prophets that prophesy unto you: they make you vain: they speak a vision of their own heart, and not out of the mouth of the Lord. 17 They say still unto them that despise me, The Lord hath said, Ye shall have peace; and they say unto every one that walketh after the imagination of his own heart, No evil shall come upon you.

Jeremiah 23:24

26 How long shall this be in the heart of the prophets that prophesy lies? yea, they are prophets of the deceit of their own heart;

I want you to notice a few things in those verses. First, notice the word “presume” in Deuteronomy 18:20. The word itself means they were audacious enough to prophesy. They dared to say “thus saith the Lord” without knowing for sure that it was indeed the Lord!

Personally, I would not want to allow my intuition, imagination, or emotions get the best of me and cause me to presume to speak for God. I don’t want to speak without knowing it is Him for sure and not my own imagination.

feelings are not God

Next, notice that Jeremiah 5:31 says the priests bear rule by their means. The priest was supposed to be a prophet to speak for God. But, instead of leaning to the wisdom of God they relied on their own wisdom.

Finally take note of Jeremiah 14:14 and Jeremiah 23:16-17. God says they prophesy from their own deceitful heart. This is key in understanding many false prophets. Believe it or not, most do not even know that they are being false and presumptuous.

We are told “follow your heart,” and many are taught to “obey that prompting that you feel inside.” No wonder so many people “feel God” prompting them to say or do something, and then later it turns out they were wrong.

So let me just recap, because this is important. Our emotions, passion, excitement, feelings, gut instincts and the whisper of that little voice in our head are NOT the promptings of the Spirit of God! Often it is merely our own imagination. It is our own voice in our head, our own hyperactive adrenaline, and poor judgment, or our own intuition which God grants all of us to observe and learn from the world around us so that we can intuitively know what may happen next.

How to Become a Prophet

Ok, let me make this even more clear before we move on. NO ONE BECOMES A PROPHET BECAUSE THEY WANT TO. God Himself is the one who speaks through a prophet, and God Himself chooses who that will be. All we can do is be willing.

Numbers 12:6

6 And he said, Hear now my words: If there be a prophet among you, I the Lord will make myself known unto him in a vision, and will speak unto him in a dream.

Have you ever wondered where prophets get their information? This is one way God says He will make Himself known to the prophet. Sometimes a dream is simply a dream, though, and sometimes a vision may be nothing more than low blood sugar.

How can we tell the difference?

Then, in the book of 1 Samuel chapter 3, we find the story of how God revealed Himself to Samuel. The funny thing is that Samuel could have been faced with this same question. “Am I just dreaming? Is it Eli that is calling me?”

1 Samuel 3:2-7

2 And it came to pass at that time, when Eli was laid down in his place, and his eyes began to wax dim, that he could not see; 3 And ere the lamp of God went out in the temple of the Lord, where the ark of God was, and Samuel was laid down to sleep; 4 That the Lord called Samuel: and he answered, Here am I. 5 And he ran unto Eli, and said, Here am I; for thou calledst me. And he said, I called not; lie down again. And he went and lay down. 6 And the Lord called yet again, Samuel. And Samuel arose and went to Eli, and said, Here am I; for thou didst call me. And he answered, I called not, my son; lie down again. 7 Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord, neither was the word of the Lord yet revealed unto him.

There are a few characteristics of the call of God here that we really need to understand. First, when God spoke to Samuel it was not a feeling or anything that could have been explained as a flight of imagination. It was so real and so strong that Samuel answered back “Here am I” as he got up and ran to Eli.

With no one else there, and Samuel not yet understanding that God would speak, he was left with the assumption that it MUST be Eli. There was not even a question in his mind about if this were simply a dream, or his mind playing tricks on him, though.

So we need to understand that when it is real there will be no question about if it is just something we “feel” or if it is really God. We do not even have to be talked into believing that it was God or talk ourselves into it.

1 Samuel 3:8-10

8 And the Lord called Samuel again the third time. And he arose and went to Eli, and said, Here am I; for thou didst call me. And Eli perceived that the Lord had called the child. 9 Therefore Eli said unto Samuel, Go, lie down: and it shall be, if he call thee, that thou shalt say, Speak, Lord; for thy servant heareth. So Samuel went and lay down in his place. 10 And the Lord came, and stood, and called as at other times, Samuel, Samuel. Then Samuel answered, Speak; for thy servant heareth.

Samuel may not have known what exactly was going on, but he DID know that SOMETHING was going on, and it wasn’t his imagination. He was even willing to argue with Eli about how real it was. If it wasn’t Eli, then who was it?

You will know God's Voice

Notice that it doesn’t say Eli explained to Samuel that it was the Lord who was speaking. It simply tells us that Eli told him how to answer when He spoke again. There is a reason for this. Remember earlier I said there was no way to doubt if it was real or just imagination?

Well, there is one other thing that there can be no doubt of. Samuel may have run to Eli, but was it because he thought it was the voice of Eli, or was it because he didn’t trust what he already knew?

Back in verse 7, it says that Samuel didn’t know God and that he had not been taught the word of God yet (the scriptures). Knowing this, and knowing that Eli didn’t have to explain that it was God, we can pick up another clue to what the call of God is like.

Samuel knew deep down that it was not Eli. He knew deep down that it was God Himself! But without ever being told that God speaks to men like this it must have been confusing to know something so deep down, but not know why you know it, or even what it is that you know! Naturally, Samuel had to lean on his own wisdom in this case, and believe it MUST have been Eli.

Take note of another person whom God spoke to in a vision:

Acts 9:3-7

3 And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven: 4 And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? 5 And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks. 6 And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do. 7 And the men which journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice, but seeing no man.

In verse 5 we see Saul ask a question. But the question itself shows that Saul already knew the answer. Like Samuel, Saul knew deep down it was God. That is why before Jesus even said His name, Saul called Him Lord.

So this is the second characteristic about the call of God that we should understand. When He speaks there will not only be no doubt as to if it really happened or not, but you will know deep within you that it is God who is speaking. You may have to ask, like Saul, “Who are you?” but like Saul, you will already know on some level.

So let me finish this by making the following statement as another recap. We should not presume to speak for God based on a feeling or thought that pops into our head. If He does indeed speak to us He will do so through the Bible, as said in the unit before this one. Or, He will speak through a vision, a dream or a voice that you will know is real, and you will know instantly that it is God, deep within. You will know that it was not your own imagination.

There is still much to be said on the subject of hearing the voice of God. We have spoken about how God speaks through the Bible and we have spoken about knowing the difference between the voice of God and your own imagination. When in doubt, … it wasn’t God.

But, we will continue in the next unit to understand the still small voice of God on a deeper and more practical level. Remember, though, I am not telling you how to get God to speak. That would be foolish. I am only showing you how to know when He does.

Also, please understand that this information is only about how you, on a personal level, can know the difference. We have not yet begun to speak of how to test others when it comes to prophesy. And, one thing that we haven’t fully addressed in this particular unit is that the word of God spoken to an individual will not contradict the scriptures. But I would hope that should not need to even be said.

Continue To Unit 4:2c – Knowing the Voice of God: The Audible Voice of God OR

Return To Christianity 101 Unit 4 – The Baptism of the Holy Spirit

August 24, 2016 at 7:09 pm | | No comment

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